By Daniel Johnson, October 22, 2001
If 5,500 people had not been horribly murdered in America on September 11,
would Tony Blair have invited Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to
Downing Street? Why, in the midst of a war against terrorism, does the British
prime minister embrace the man who, more than any other, invented
September 11 ought to have strengthened Israel’s relationship with the West.
Israel’s enemies are the West’s enemies. In such a shared predicament, to
demonstrate solidarity with Israel ought to have been an elementary duty.
Instead, Western governments have so far done the opposite. America and
Britain have talked up the creation of an independent Palestinian state. The
purpose of the “peace process” is no longer to make peace, but to satisfy one
party in the conflict. No peace without full sovereignty for Arafat’s Palestine
will be regarded by London and Washington as just and permanent.
Blair is demanding that Israelis accept a new state, carved out of territory that
is now being used to attack them, over which they will have no control. Most
Israelis accept, as I do, that such a new state will one day exist.
But what reason do Israelis have to suppose that the new Palestine will not be a
terrorist state, like Syria, Iraq, Libya, Iran, and Afghanistan? Or to be like other
states, such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, that offer covert sponsorship of
terrorists, as does Arafat.
From Oslo to Camp David, even unprecedented Israeli concessions could not
persuade Arafat to sign a treaty. The disillusionment of Israeli public opinion
with the peace process since the resumption of the intifada is total.
Yet Blair is demanding that Israel resume talks with Arafat, as if the
suicide bombings, which some 75 percent of Palestinians support, had never
happened. Why should Israel trust a man who has probably had more Jews
killed in the past 50 years than anyone since Hitler?
Osama bin Laden is thus already well on the way to achieving one of his
declared aims: the “liberation,” that is Islamization, of Jerusalem.
Last week Arafat insisted that east Jerusalem must be the capital of the
new Palestinian state. By feting Arafat at such a time, Blair effectively endorsed
his demands. The US State Department is also said to favor a divided
Hence the significance of Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s recent visit to Iran –
sponsor of Hizbullah and other terrorists – and the notorious article in which he
compared outrage at September 11 to “the anger which many people in the
region feel at events over the years in Palestine.”
Straw was suggesting a moral equivalence between Israel and terrorists
of bin Laden’s stamp, a standard trope of Islamist propaganda.
Last week Blair, too, implied an equivalence between September 11 and “the
suffering of the Palestinians.” He revealed that the Americans and British had
been pressuring Israel even before the crisis.
Ariel Sharon is being blamed for creating a vacuum that has been filled by bin
Laden. Western diplomats have long blamed Israel for the Middle East conflict.
Now Israel is blamed for Islamist terrorism, too.
The strategic justification of American support for Israel is widely held to
have ended with the Cold War.
Now the moral justification seems to have been dumped, too.
Yet Israel has been engaged in the same struggle against the same enemies for
two generations. Terrorism in its modern form – the hijacking and destruction of
airliners – is a consequence of the failure to annihilate Israel by military assault.
Its emergence created the climate in which messianic revolutionaries such as
Osama bin Laden could flourish. He is merely the latest in a long sequence of
demagogues – Nasser, Gaddafi, Arafat, Khomeini, Saddam – who have used
terrorism not only against Israel, but against the West.
Terrorism is a continuation of jihad by other means. It cannot be
appeased, only defeated.
That the motivation for the assault on New York was, in part,
anti-Jewish was already evident at the time. Anti-Semitism is more virulent than
ever in the Islamic world. The suicide killer makes sense only within the context
of a genocidal ideology. The scenes of mothers celebrating the self-immolation
of their sons are otherwise incomprehensible.
Europeans and Americans fail to understand the ferocity of this struggle, even
though it is dawning on them that the Islamists who have long menaced their
own Jewish citizens along with Israel have now become a threat to everybody.
Israelis are often accused of paranoia.
But there is a subliminal anti-Semitism at work in the persistent desire of
the West to identify with states and movements that deny Israel’s right to exist.
The Israelis have reason to be paranoid. Yet there is a pragmatic case for
standing by them. Israel is still the only true democracy in its region.
Zionism is a Western ideology; unlike Islamic fundamentalism, it is
compatible with modern secular culture. Israel is now the Silicon Valley of the
Levant; it is a reliable source of intelligence – in both senses.
To abandon Israel now would give the Islamists the strongest possible incentive
to escalate the global jihad. Nemesis would overtake the West. Such a betrayal,
and such a nemesis, are too hideous to contemplate.
Instead, Bush must once again mobilize the great arsenal of democracy
on behalf of its only champion among the despots of the Orient.